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Tiger, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

Clouded Leopard

Clouded LeopardThe clouded leopard is sufficiently distinct from other members of the Felidae family, due mainly to the unique shape of its skull, to be placed in a separate genus - Neofelis. Outwardly the cat is immediately recognizable by its distinctive coat patterning.

Zoological Name: Neofelis nebulosa

Physical appearance: The wondrously patterned markings of the clouded leopard give this felid an wizardly ability to traverse its forest environment in an almost ghostlike fashion. Chinese culture describes the coat pattern as resembling mint leaves, resulting in the name "mint leopard." Malaysians call it the "tree tiger" because it is often seen resting in the branches of jungle trees. The clouded leopard is distinct from other members of the felids and stands alone in its own genus as Neofelis nebulosa, literally the new cat with a cloudy pelt. The ground color of the body is grey, earthy brown, or yellowish brown on its back, shading to white or pale tawny on its underside.

Distribution: Spotted in the forest regions of eastern Nepal, northeast India, southeast Asia, southern China, Taiwan and Borneo, the clouded leopard is specialized for arboreal living, although it is assumed to be a mainly terrestrial cat in most of its habitat. Included in these specializations is the ability to climb slowly down a vertical trunk headfirst, rather than the hindquarters first method, as utilized by most other felids.

Clouded Leopard Species:
Four subspecies have been described:
N. n. nebulosa South China, Indo-China
N. n. brachyurus Taiwan (Extinct?)
N. n. diardi Borneo
N. n. macrosceloides Nepal to Burma

Hunting and Diet: Clouded leopards are equally adept at hunting on the ground as they are in trees, but uses trees primarily as a resting place. Their diet includes birds, primates, small mammals, porcupines, deer and wild boar.

Reproduction and Offspring: Little is known of the breeding habits of clouded leopards in the wild, but in captivity litters of 1-5 (average 3) are born after an average 93 day gestation. Less than 20% of captive Clouded Leopards have been successful at reproducing because the males tend to kill their females during mating.

Conservation Status: The status of the clouded leopard is probably healthiest on the island of Borneo, possibly because of the absence of tigers and leopards. As part of a faunal survey of Sabah, Davies and Payne (1982) provided the first (and thus far only) rough estimate of density; they assumed that 12 one-square kilometer study areas were surveyed adequately so that presence or absence of clouded leopard would be detected and, on the basis of three records, came up with a density of one individual/4 sq.km.

Life span: 10-12 years

Clouded wildness!

It is an extremely good climber, aided by the balancing effect of its long tail and supple ankle joints - in captivity the clouded leopard has been observed hanging from overhanging branches by its rear legs. Although in part arboreal, the clouded leopard hunts mainly on the ground at night.

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